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Happy New Year : What I Learned in 2014

Happy New Year!

It’s year 2015. Will this be the best year of your life? I sure do hope so.

In this email, I’m going to share two things that I learned in 2014.

But before we get to it, are you making this mistake in English?

A Happy New Year vs Happy New Year

When you greet someone on the New Year’s Day, should you say “A Happy New Year!” or “Happy New Year?” Do you need that article “a”?

You might have heard people say, “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!” So you might opt for “A Happy New Year.” Well in this case, it really means “I wish you a happy New Year.”

But if you’re simply greeting someone, “Happy New Year” would suffice.

When it’s someone’s birthday, you’d say, “Happy Birthday!” But you wouldn’t say, “A Happy Birthday!” If you choose to, you could say, “I wish you a happy/special/awesome birthday.”

So when you greet someone on January 1st, just say, “Happy New Year,” and you’ll be fine.

Now onto the subject. I’m going to share with you what I learned in 2014.

What I Learned in 2014

I had some successes, but most of the time I failed. Here’s my takeaway (conclusions, or something that you learned) from last year.

Focus On A Few Important Things

I was chasing too many rabbits at once (trying to do or get too many things). I wanted to wake up early, workout, change my diet, treat my hair loss, start a mobile app company, go on TV, travel, learn programming, learn to cook, study Chinese and Portuguese, make music, and write a book on the meaning of life, while I kept at my day job and family obligations. I was trying to do too many things at once. I got a mediocre result, or I made a very little progress in what I was trying to do.

I realized that I was spreading myself too thin (trying to do too many things so you cannot give enough attention or time to any of them).

Then, I came across this book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. This book taught me to prioritize and focus on a few things at a time.

Of course, I want to enjoy and experience many things that life can offer. It’s ok to be ambitious. But I need to go about doing it strategically. Doing a little bit of everything won’t achieve significant results. Being patient and focusing on a few things that are vital and impactful, eventually will do.

Ok, after I identified what to focus on, the next step would be execution (carrying out a plan or action). Which brings me to the next…

Habit Over Willpower

If you want to lose weight or become better at Chinese, you have to work hard consistently. And it doesn’t matter how you feel about it. What you do counts (to be significant or have an effect) more than how you feel about doing it.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t feel like going to gym today. I’m going to skip today’s workout. Oh well, I can just workout tomorrow.” And that tomorrow never comes. I was guilty of this so many times.

We can’t rely on our willpower. Our willpower comes and goes. Sometimes we feel like studying English, sometimes we don’t. If you’re always looking for motivation to study English, it’s not going to last. You can’t rely on your willpower, motivation, or emotion. But what you can do, is to build a habit.

Habit is like your personal system that runs on autopilot. Before you go to bed, you brush your teeth, regardless of how tired you are. In the same way, you want to build good habits around areas of your life that you want to improve. Maybe it’s going to gym, or learning a foreign language.

To build a new habit, you need a trigger, routine, and a reward. You can read Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” for more ideas.

I wanted to wake up early. I needed to find a way to make waking up early easy and fun. So here’s what I decided to do in 2015.

Introducing 꼭두새벽 영단어 (Word of the Day) Channel

I started a new video channel called 꼭두새벽 영단어. It’s a video series intended for Korean students to learn a new English word each day. And this the first thing I do in the morning, before eat breakfast or shower.

There are two things that we will achieve through this video series.

  1. I have an excuse to wake up early. I’m forced to wake up early to shoot the video, because if I don’t, my you will be disappointed. And the last thing I want to see is your sad face.
  2. You learn a new English word in 90 seconds or less. Instead of carrying a vocabulary book, you can watch videos with a few clicks on your smartphone.

Here’s the first video. Please excuse my Korean (the video is in Korean. If you don’t speak Korean, perhaps you can learn Korean and English at the same time?!).

Hit the “Subscribe” button on Youtube, and let’s start a day with a fresh new English vocabulary every morning!

What’s your new habit going be in 2015? Write me back an email or leave a comment below.

Interview with Chris – Why Taiwan Surprised Him and Common English Mistakes You Should Avoid

I’m incredibly excited to have Chris Ternosky to the show!

Chris is an English teacher in Taiwan, and we got to know each other through a Facebook group. We became friends online, and since we were both teachers, we decided to record our conversation and share our experiences with you.

Is it weird to make friends online? You might be surprised. The world is connected more than ever with the help of the Internet, and not only could you make friends online, but you could also get a part-time job, hire an assistant, or even find the partner of your dreams on the internet!

I’ll show you how to find an English teacher online down below this post. For now, let me tell you a few things about our conversation.

Topics discussed in this session:

  • Chris’s background, and how he ended up in Taiwan
  • Two things that surprised Chris while he was in Taiwan
  • Three interesting things that happened to Josh when he was in Taiwan
  • Common English mistakes Taiwanese and Korean students make when they speak in English
  • Chris’s tips for learning English better and faster
  • How Chris develops himself

Today’s English Words

entrepreneurshipthe process of starting a business
Josh and Chris are interested in entrepreneurship. 

zero market valuenot useful in the job market
Philosophy major has a zero market value.

no one goes out of their way to help youto do more than necessary; to go above and beyond 
Americans are nice too, but not many people go out of their way to help you.  [click to read more…]

English Words That Describe Steve Jobs’ Personality


I’ve been reading Steve Job’s biography by Walter Isaacson lately. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now, so I finally got my hands on it. And it’s FANTASTIC. Isaacson writes in an engaging narrative style that makes you want to keep reading. I was immediately hooked to the book.

As you may already know, the founder of Apple was no ordinary man. He was brilliant, intense, prickly, and often times the way he treated his friends and employees was terrible. What made the revolution of personal computing possible for Jobs was perhaps in part due to his commitment to perfectionism and self-confidence. He is a fascinating character.

In today’s lesson, we’re going to learn English words and phrases that describe Steve Job’s personality.  [click to read more…]

How to Be Funny in English


Would you like to know how to be funny in English? When I say, “funny,” I don’t mean acting like a clown.

You want to be able to say something witty, so that you can make your friends laugh. When people think you’re funny, you can subtly show that you are smart. I’ll teach you how to make people laugh.

What Is Laughter?

There’s one thing to keep in mind before I teach you jokes or funny things to say to your friends. People laugh when the tension is broken.

When a shy girl goes up on the stage to give a speech, she might cover her mouth and chuckle. That’s because she is subconsciously trying to alleviate her nervousness.

The same thing goes for your everyday humor. People laugh to break the tension.

So when you think of making people laugh, you have to know (1) how to build tension, and (2) break the tension at the right time.

So here’s how to do them.

[click to read more…]

Different Ways to Say “Annoying” in English


I went to see a ballet performance in Seoul a few weeks ago. I arrived a little early, so I decided to get something to eat before the show. I went to KFC and there were two lines at the counter. Naturally, I went to the shorter line.

There was an older lady in front of me who was taking a very long time to place an order. She was looking at the menu for more than 3 minutes. Then she asked a question about each item on the menu to the cashier. That probably took another 3 minutes. Then she orders two chicken burgers.

Just when she was about to take out her credit card to pay, she changed her mind and canceled the order. She told the cashier that she is changing the order and asked the cashier more questions about other burgers.

I looked to my left and saw that the other line was moving a lot faster.

I looked back at the lady in front of me. I was getting very impatient and frustrated. I wanted to tell her,


I think it took her about 10 minutes to finally make up her mind. She ordered a corn salad and coke.

She got on my nerves. And here are different ways to say “annoying” in English.

[click to read more…]